Hillsdale College football and baseball athletes are working at the Filling Station Deli in downtown Hillsdale. A handful of students have been rotating through and taking shifts since 2014.
Cindy Bieszk, the owner, will celebrate 17 years of running the deli on May 1. With a steady stream of business from the football, baseball, and basketball teams, she has been a staple of the students’ Hillsdale experience. The deli itself has served the community for 28 years.
“When football travels, I do their sack lunches,” she said. “I’ve fed pretty much all the teams.”
When Garet Lee ’14 injured himself playing football for the Chargers, he became a potential employee for Bieszk. With the economy improving, Bieszk said, she needed an extra body in the deli. Lee lived close to Hillsdale and was able to take shifts at the Filling Station.
By the time Lee graduated, Bieszk needed someone to take his place. Lee named Sam Landry ’15 as his successor, starting a trend of football players vetting their peers for the coveted shifts at the Filling Station.
“They tell me who’s going to work the best,” Bieszk said.
Of course, with the Filling Station’s unique design, not everyone can join the team. Players over 6 feet 2 inches can’t stoop beneath the deli’s low ceiling. Aside from this physical deterrent, the student workers select their successors based on personality and ability to work within the team.
Bieszk noted the limitations set by the restaurant’s tight space, saying, “There’s a concussion protocol for the too-tall guys.”
With some employees graduating each December, the sandwich shop owner said she has been “rotating bodies in” as positions open up. As the number of employees has increased incrementally each year, the demand for the positions has increased as well. Now three members of the football team and one baseball player work at the deli.
“I got the job from Scotty Penola and Jordan Harlamert,” senior Alex Zimmerman said. “They recommended me to Cindy and she slowly started to give me shifts so I could learn the ropes, and eventually I just started working more and more.”
Zimmerman joined after Penola and Harlamert graduated and now works three days a week at the deli.
“The experience so far has been awesome,” he said. “It’s a great job for my schedule. The toughest part has been mastering the cash register and memorizing orders. The best part has been the people who work there.
Christian Rodino, who graduates next December, reached out to Bieszk this year to see if he could spend some of his free time working at her restaurant. The baseball team member is the first student to land a position without the football team’s blessing, but his frequent stops at the deli helped him develop a relationship with the owner led to his hiring.
“I just wanted to get some work because I’m planning on going on a trip to Europe this summer,” he said.
Rodino and the baseball team provide the deli with business when their coaches buy them lunch there, he said. The sandwich place fed the team when the cafeteria was closed to the athletes over school breaks. Rodino said the job was a great fit because of his schedule-oriented lifestyle as an athlete.
“It’s very fun to work with these people,” Rodino said.“I like everything here.”